The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/4/17 Puerto Rico still struggling to distribute aid
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: October 4, 2017
Guest: Adam Schiff, Andrea Bernstein
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now with Ari Melber, in for Rachel.
Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening and thank you, Chris.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Rachel is off tonight. She will be back tomorrow.
There is a lot going on in the world today, not least significant
developments in the Russia investigation. The heads of the Senate
Intelligence Committee revealed today that even after 100 witness
interviews, they can`t rule out collusion between the Trump campaign and
And then there was a very unusual appearance by the secretary of state
whose only purpose it seemed was to deny ever threatening to leave his
post. And perhaps more important was what Rex Tillerson did not deny
We have more on both of those stories shortly.
We`re also getting reports today that three American soldiers were killed
and two more wounded in an ambush in the western African nation of Niger.
The Americans, all green berets were on a routine patrol with local troops
when this attack occurred.
And we are also learning, this is just in the past hour, some more details
about Sunday`s deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas. The Clark County sheriff
revised number of wounded to 489. He says more than 300 have already
released from the hospital.
The gunman`s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, also arrived in L.A. late last
night, all the way from the Philippines. She was whisked away quickly for
questioning by FBI agents. They describe her as a, quote, person of
interest in this case.
We can also tell you in a statement released from her attorney today, that
she says she`s devastated by this attack. She knew nothing, she claims, of
her partner`s plans.
The president and first lady visited with first responders and victims in
Las Vegas. Meanwhile, also today, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders
tweeting out these photos, brand-new here, this is them with the trauma
team at University Medical Center which treated over 100 victims in that
Now, despite the intense public scrutiny of this case, law enforcement say
they`re really no closer to determining a motive here. What they do know
is that Paddock planned that attack extensively. Officers recovering 47
shotguns, rifles and pistols from the shooter`s hotel room and homes. Now,
at least a dozen have been modified with bump stocks which would have
allowed the semiautomatic weapons to fire almost as fast as fully automatic
Now, the sale of new fully automatic weapons have been banned in the United
States since 1986. Bump stocks, though, are legal. Though in the wake of
Sunday`s attack, there are signs that may be changing.
This morning, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein introducing a bill in
the Senate that would ban the sales and ownership of these bump stocks, a
move that`s earned support even from her Republican colleagues. I mention
that because we`re going to have more on that important development later
But we begin tonight with these latest developments in Congress and in the
Russia investigation. It was just one month ago that the top Democrat on
the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, made some pretty big
headlines when he announced that his committee might conclude its
investigation into Russian meddling in the election with two separate
reports, meaning partisan reports effectively, one from Republicans and one
from the committee`s Democrats.
Schiff told “USA Today” at the time, if it does, then American also have to
read both reports and decide which one to believe and that`s far less than
ideal. Now, you may remember that at the time, Schiff`s claim raised
eyebrow, but it wasn`t really a massive surprise for anyone who`s been
You know, from the beginning, the House Intelligence Committee
investigation was totally beset by obvious partisan in-fighting, starting
with the Republican chairman of that committee, a name you may surely
remember, Devin Nunes. He was, of course, a Trump adviser during the
transition. He later had to step down, he said, from his role overseeing
the investigation because of the close ties to the White House, his
behavior, and discord on the House side which increased pressure on its
counterpart in the upper chamber, the Senate Intelligence Committee to
provide what many hoped would be a definitive and bipartisan account of
just what transpired in the last election.
Now, special counsel Robert Mueller, of course, has the criminal mandate.
He`s focused on any potential federal crimes and he can look at intel
issues, as well. But if you want a broad, bipartisan accounting of what
went down in the election – well, that`s the purview of the Senate
Intelligence Committee. Following Schiff`s comments last month, members of
the Intelligence Committee on the Senate side, they announced a surprise of
their own. They said they were weighing the possibility of issuing an
interim report on their progress in this inquiry.
Now, the top Democrat, Senator Mark Warner, said he worried that an interim
update could slow down their work. He also noted the import of what big
issue, urgent election security information and he said, quote, I think
it`s very important we put out something about the importance of protecting
our electoral systems before 2018. That is a shot across the bow. That is
concern about the next election.
And then the committee announced Friday there would not be this formal
interim report but instead, there would be something else that`s kind of
rare, a bipartisan briefing on the status of this open investigation into
what happened with Russia, on camera with questions.
Now, that was the unusual scene that unfolded today. These two leaders
came out and they delivered a verbal interim report on their work and they
have those sign, you see there announcing they did 100 plus interviews and
held these 11 open hearings and have pored over 100,000 documents.
So, if anyone is impatient with the pacing here, the Republican chair wants
you to know everything is on track.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC), CHAIR, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Let me assure
you, we`re going to get the best view of what happened that anybody that
can possibly get. At the end of this process, we will be sure that we
present to the American people our findings as best we have been able to
accumulate them. The issue of collusion is still open, that we continue to
investigate both intelligence and witnesses, and that we`re not in a
position where we will come to any kind of temporary finding on that until
we`ve completed the process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The issue of collusion is still open. That was the biggest
And the committee said it would continue to look at anything amounting even
a hint of collusion.
The two men also confirmed the committee reached what they view as a
logical end to their investigation regarding the firing of FBI Director Jim
Comey who, of course, was overseeing the original FBI Russia inquiry.
Then they delved into election security-related matters, namely how secure
our democracy was last year and how secure it may be in the future while
they acknowledged it`s hard to conclude these efforts when Trump`s own
Department of Homeland Security only recently finished notifying the 21
states targeted by Russian hacking attempts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), CO-CHAIR, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: One of the
things that is particularly troubling to both of us is the fact that it`s
become evident that 21 states` electoral systems were not all penetrated
but there was at least – there was at least trying to open the door in
these 21 states. It has been very disappointing to me and I believe the
chairman as well that it took 11 months for the Department of Homeland
Security to reveal those 21 states.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Senator Warner is diplomatic. He says Russia was trying to open
the door and it took 11 months for the Trump administration to tell anyone
on the other side of the door, manning the door in these state, hey, we got
a problem here. And Senator Warner basically is also saying at an
investigative level all of this takes a long time, fair point.
And then he says, you know what, it takes a lot longer when Trump
associates have secret meetings that they keep secret and then they get
exposed in real time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARNER: I know that this feels like it`s taking a long time. It is taking
a long time. But getting it right and getting all the facts is what we owe
the American people and as we`ve seen, you know, for example, you know,
stories emerged in the late summer around, you know, Mr. Trump Jr.`s
meeting or the possibilities of a Trump Tower Moscow, you know, chairman
and I would love to find ways to close things down but still see strains
and threads that we need to continue to pursue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: For example, maybe you had secret meetings about building a Trump
Tower in Moscow and you denied it the whole campaign, just senatorial
He talks about strains and threads, as well. Well, they do keep coming.
Last week, it was revealed six of the president`s top aides were using
private e-mail accounts for White House matters. Among them, president
son-in-law Jared Kushner who, of course, had previously failed to disclose
his meetings with Russian officials during the transition. And CNN
reported that chair and vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee
were so unhappy that they learned about the existence of Kushner`s personal
e-mail account via news reports. They wrote Kushner a letter instructing
him to double-check, he`s turned over every relevant document to the
committee. Those would be some of the documents you saw on the
presentation on their big list.
And then this week, we learned that the clandestine effort to pursue that
Trump Tower Moscow deal during the campaign which, of course, only came to
light during the summer was not the only Russian real estate deal proposed.
On Monday, with the world, of course, focused on the tragedy in Las Vegas,
“The Washington Post” had a big Russia scoop reporting that recent
documents which went to the special counsel as well as the committees
revealed two more previously unreported contacts with Russia during the
2016 campaign. In the first instance, a Russian billionaire reaches out to
the president`s lawyer, Michael Cohen, this was late 2015 about a potential
Trump branded real estate deal in Moscow. And the second time, a Russian
real estate deal was proposed was while Trump was running for president.
The other previously unreported contact also with Cohen and Trump business
associate Felix Sater discussing Cohen possibly going to St. Petersburg for
what was described as an economic summit with top Russian officials and
guess who was going to be there, Vladimir Putin.
Now, today`s briefing, the senators name-checked Michael Cohen and they
said, hey, we`re going to hear his public testimony before our committee on
October 25th. In fact, we can tell you, he`s one of 25 witnesses that Burr
and Warner said they intend to interview by the end of just this month,
Cohen`s testimony is, of course, significant because in addition to his
involvement in that proposed Russian Trump Tower real estate deal, his name
appears several times in the dossier compiled by ex-MI6 agent Christopher
And in that, Steele describing meetings allegedly between Cohen and Russian
officials overseas, Cohen has vociferously denied they ever occurred.
Well, the facts continue to come out, obviously on a nearly daily basis
related to the Russia inquiry. But the big takeaway from today`s press
conference was Chairman Burr`s announcement that when it comes to the
dossier, the committee`s investigation has hit something of a dead end.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURR: As it relates to the Steele dossier, unfortunately, the committee
has hit a wall. We have on several occasions made attempts to contact Mr.
Steele to meet with Mr. Steele. Those offers have gone unaccepted. The
committee cannot really decide the credibility of the dossier without
understanding things like who paid for it. Who are your sources and sub-
sources? And though we have been incredibly enlightened at our ability to
rebuild backwards the Steele dossier up to a certain date, getting past
that point has been somewhat impossible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Joining me now is Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking member of,
as I mentioned, the House side of this, the intelligence committee there.
Congressman Schiff, thank you for your time tonight.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: You bet.
MELBER: On the dossier your committee also wants to talk to Steele. How do
you get someone with his background abroad to talk at all?
SCHIFF: Well, we made outreach to Mr. Steele and we`ve offered Mr. Conway
and myself to go out to London to sit down with him if that`s a more
comfortable way for him to participate and provide whatever information he
can to the committee. I hope he will take us up on that.
But that would certainly be one way that we could accomplish this, but
we`re open to any possibility and whatever form he`s willing to cooperate
MELBER: And, Senator Burr, in this briefing today, he referred to this
entire Russian advertising effort as, quote, indiscriminate. Do you look
at it that way as something that was just all over the place or can we say
based on the public information and the leaks that it had more of a focal
SCHIFF: Well, I don`t think you can say even with respect to the
advertising that it was – that the Russians were equal opportunity
dividers, certainly a lot of the ads on Facebook were very divisive, but a
lot of the ads that they chose, the issues they chose to exploit were ones
I think that the exploitation of that was to Donald Trump`s benefit.
And, you know, to give you one illustration, for example, if they did ads
of Muslims for Hillary and they were targeted at people that had shown a
concern about the Muslim Brotherhood, for example, that would be designed
to push people away from Hillary Clinton.
Now, on the surface they might look neutral but in their targeting, they
might have a pointed effect. I`d also say we haven`t paid much attention
to the ads on Twitter that is publicly, but the ads on Twitter, the RT ads
on Twitter were almost uniformly anti-Clinton. So they were pushing
stories about Hillary Clinton`s health or pushing stories about how close
the Clintons were to indictment or pushing stories about dissatisfaction
with Hillary by the Bernie supporters. So among the Twitter ads, they were
quite uniformly anti-Clinton.
MELBER: Those are the ads that RT purchased.
SCHIFF: Those are ads that RT purchased, that is that RT chose certain
stories it wanted to push out to the American electorate during the
election that were profiled on RT and you look at them and have to
conclude, no, there was a clear design in these ads. With Facebook, I
think we have to go beneath the surface to look at how they were targeted
to get at the Russian intentions.
But, again, the advertising also is just one subset of what the Russians
did. We have to look at the content they were pushing out, the stories
they were pushing out, the Twitter trends they were trying to create, and I
think that we have a lot to work to do both to uncover the breadth and
depth of that, as well as just who they were going after and how they were
trying to manipulate our voters.
MELBER: And you are basically saying that while you and Burr both see ads
or content that mentions Clinton and Trump, he`s reading that as perhaps
helping both of them and you`re saying, the bulk of the Russian backed ads
referencing Trump were helpful to him and the ones referencing Clinton were
false flags trying to still help Trump?
SCHIFF: I think if you look at a representative sample of the ads on
Twitter, the RT ads, the 430,000 or so expenditure that RT made, those you
have to conclude just on the surface of – were designed to hurt Hillary
Clinton`s campaign. On Facebook, I think the probably the majority of ads
were issues that sought to exploit the divisions within the United States
and you have to look beyond the superficial appearance of the ad to the
targeting of the ad to figure out who they were trying to move in what
direction. And so –
MELBER: And that targeting, Congressman, based on what we`re learning, do
you think that was the kind of expertise detail and nuance that the
Russians needed American help to do.
SCHIFF: Well, that`s the million dollar question here, was the
sophistication such that it couldn`t really have been done without the data
analytics of the campaign and on that, we simply don`t have a conclusion
But I will say this, I do agree with my colleagues in the Senate that the
evidence we have seen on the intelligence committee`s assessment which
includes the Russian motivation of hurting Hillary and helping Trump, the
evidence we have seen to date is supportive of the intelligence community`s
assessment. I haven`t seen really anything to contradict it and that we`re
not done, but we come a long way I think in that area of our investigation.
MELBER: A busy day for all intel issues on the Hill – so, Congressman
Adam Schiff ranking member, house intelligence, I really appreciate you
spending time with us.
SCHIFF: My pleasure. Thank you.
MELBER: Now, we have a lot more to come tonight, including the seemingly
strange position one member of the Trump cabinet is in tonight and the
latest on something very important, the policy response to the Las Vegas
mass murders. This proposal is not a slam dunk but it does have at least a
flicker of a chance. That story is coming up.
MELBER: The year was 1929, February 14th, the city of Chicago was in shock
over the St. Valentine`s Day massacre. Al Capone ordered the machine gun
execution of seven members of a rival gang. They were murdered in a
Chicago garage. It was a sensational crime.
And the nation was captivated and horrified that so many people, seven,
could be killed at once so quickly in an urban setting.
“The Chicago Tribune” ran an editorial summoning the shock of a society
reeling from the scale of that killing. Quote: These murders went out of
the comprehension of a civilized city. The butchering of seven men by open
daylight raises this question for Chicago, is it helpless? Helpless to
stop the butchering of seven people.
Now, a shooting of seven today, while horrific, it`s not even usually the
lead story on our evening news. Now, the St. Valentine`s Day massacre is
remembered really more as a kind of a gangland prohibition history than it
is as a political science lesson in, say, gun control. But maybe it was
that too. Because it did shock the conscience of the nation and Congress
ultimately responded to gun-related murder by regulating guns.
Gang violence in fact led to policy changes. Prohibition, of course, was
deemed a failure was halted in 1933. The very next year, President
Roosevelt signed the National Firearms Act, the first major gun control
legislation in America and that gun control used registration laws and
taxes to regulate machine guns and sawed off shotguns.
One prominent endorser of that law was a man named Karl T. Frederick who
said that he didn`t believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I
think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses, he said.
Karl T. Frederick was the president of the NRA. The NRA backed that gun
control law in 1934.
In fact, for the next 30 years or so, the NRA did support and sometimes
even wrote different types of gun control legislation. The NRA worked with
Ronald Reagan in 1967 when he was California governor to ban open carrying
in his state.
And the politics of that effort were not about carrying guns in the
abstract, they were about Black Panthers carrying guns. The Black Panthers
staged an open carry protest at the state capitol and the particular
perception of unrest at the time probably impacted how law enforcement
efforts led to those new laws.
But that California ban on open carry, it`s on the books today. And the
following year, 1968, after the assassinations of MLK and RFK, President
Lyndon Johnson signed a new federal gun control act restricting the sale of
mail order guns like the one Lee Harvey Oswald obtained to kill JFK.
But what Johnson had really wanted, gun license and registration
requirements was blocked by the NRA.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LYNDON B. JOHNSON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Voices that block these
safeguards were not the voices of an aroused nation. They were the voices
of a powerful lobby, a gun lobby that has prevailed for the moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: A gun lobby. LBJ couldn`t have known then, the gun lobby would go
on to get even those compromised rules from that `68 bill reversed. By the
time, Ronald Reagan became president, he was again working with them but
this time for diluting gun restrictions. Now, even that bill did ad a new
rule barring machine guns, those weapons, fully automatic rifles, enable
you to hold down the trigger to unleash a hailstorm of bullets.
And that feature actually had a legal significance. It`s nearly impossible
to legally justify gun use in self-defense if you are firing
indiscriminately. Meaning, those weapons are literally not weapons for
self-defense. They`re weapons of war.
And that law makes it illegal to this day to buy a machine gun that`s made
after 1986 and to turn another gun into a fully automatic weapon.
Now, everyone knows gun control is an uphill battle. In the `90s, some
laws were passed after particularly heinous shootings. The Brady Bill in
1993, the assault weapons ban in 1994. Both opposed by the NRA. And that
ban expired and remains defunct.
And while you can`t buy a fully automatic weapon, it is legal to modify a
semiautomatic weapon to fire as if it were an automatic weapon. Now, many
gun enthusiasts maintain there is a big difference between a fully
automatic gun and one that shoots as if it were fully automatic. That may
be how law-abiding Americans use these guns as a hobby and gun
manufacturers may agree. Those are two views on it.
This week showed another view. The view of thousands of the innocent
Americans and music fans stuck in that crowd that Stephen Paddock fired
into. He had 12 bump fire stocks in his hotel room that night. A bump
stock makes the stock of the gun slide back and forth so that the recoil of
the gun makes that firing pace effectively indistinguishable from an
automatic weapon. Experts believe that is how he shot so many rounds so
quickly, spraying that crowd with bullets over and over.
Policy is always about trade-offs. We know that. There is a trade-off for
gun hobbyists who like their legal semiautomatics and really like legally
modifying them into even quicker firing machines. And absurd as it may
sound to say, a trade-off for every person killed or injured by that legal
modification in Las Vegas, and especially for those who might not have been
hit had the law simply made it harder and slower to pull off that kind of
After the St. Valentine`s Day massacre in 1929 many in Chicago did not view
those victims as particularly innocent or sympathetic, but the technology
used to slaughter them, the seven of them so quickly did have the city
asking when anyone could walk the streets with a fully automatic weapon,
whether that was a good idea.
We`re asking the question as the “Chicago Tribune” put it, is it helpless?
Are we helpless?
The nation ultimately answered that question then, no, and it took action.
There is a legitimate debate about how to regulate guns and we live under
the rule of law and our courts have ruled the Constitution does protect
some gun rights.
But historically, there`s never been a legitimate debate about when to
regulate guns. Today`s laws will always be the echo of yesterday`s
politics. Our politics have forged rules and limits and safety
requirements on guns after incidents when their murderous impact swelled
beyond what people thought was any reasonable trade-off.
Today, Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a new bill to ban those bump
stocks which make semiautomatic weapons operate just like deadly automatic
ones. She`s also the author of that expired assault weapons ban from 1994.
And we can tell you tonight, 25 Democrats have already joined the effort
and though some Republicans do seem open to this idea, other top
Republicans say, now is not the time for this debate.
But the question is never really about timing, because the question is
pretty old anyway. It`s what they asked in 1929. Are we helpless?
MELBER: Perhaps you sometimes ask, why is this secretary of state
different from all the others? Well, we know he`s a bona fide oil mogul.
Our top diplomat had never been one of those before. We know he publicly
accepted a shiny piece of jewelry from Vladimir Putin, Russia`s Order of
Friendship, that was new.
But there is another thing that make Rex Tillerson pretty different.
Diplomats, of course, known for diplomatic language, but this man does not
use words much at all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Mr. Secretary, can you do your job with the
kind of budget cuts the president has proposed? What does it say about the
priority of diplomacy in this administration?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
MITCHELL: Do you think you`ll have a deputy anytime soon?
UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: Thank you.
MITCHELL: When do you think you might have a deputy?
STAFFER: Come on, come on, let`s go. Andrea, come on, guys. Andrea, this
way. This way. Out please. Out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: If you listen really closely, you can hear Andrea Mitchell
laughing a little bit at the end of the tape because it`s ridiculous. This
really was a thing early in the administration.
Here`s Rex Tillerson silently shaking hands with the Indian foreign
secretary or the top diplomat from Australia or the Egyptian minister of
foreign affairs. Every single time, reporters shouting out questions and
getting swept out of the room while the secretary of state basically
pretends his ears don`t work.
We do see photo sprays but this was super weird and for those wanted to
hear from the State Department is frustrating.
Today, though, we learned that Rex Tillerson isn`t holding back anymore,
and when he opens his mouth, it is a doozy. That story is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Secretary Tom Price is also
here, hopefully. He`s going to get the votes tomorrow to start our path
toward killing this horrible thing known as Obamacare. By the way, you
going to get the votes?
TOM PRICE, FORMER HHS SECRETARY: I hope so.
TRUMP: He better get them. He better get them. Otherwise, I`ll say, Tom,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Tom did not get the votes. And it wasn`t until investigative
reporters at “Politico” uncovered that Health and Human Service Secretary
Price had cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars on private jet
that is the president finally got rid of him. Now, public displays of
animosity like this between a president and his high level officials are
unusual in any White House but in Trump`s White House, this is becoming the
Already in his first year in office, we`ve seen the president fire his
chief of staff after months of threats, openly mused about firing his U.N.
ambassador, reportedly demand his attorney general resign after he recused
from the Trump-Russia investigation.
But we`re also seeing high ranking cabinet officials take issue with the
president and not only over policy but also over the way he leads. As the
president`s remarks before the U.N. last month were winding up, his chief
of staff John Kelly spotted head in hands, he looked uncomfortable and
downtrodden while the president defended the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville a
few weeks ago. Meanwhile, economic adviser Gary Cohn reportedly
threatening to resign also over Charlottesville. Pentagon Chief James
Mattis this week directly contradicting the president on Iran, Mattis
telling the Senate Armed Forces Committee he believes the U.S. should stick
with the deal, of course, undercutting Trump.
And now, NBC has an exclusive new report about another cabinet official
who`s taken offense with this president. Trump and Secretary of State Rex
Tillerson disagreeing on many policy issues most recently about how to
approach North Korea. And over the weekend, the president tweeted wildly
that Rex Tillerson was just wasting his time trying to negotiate with,
quote, little rocket man.
Now, NBC reports those disagreements over policy go deeper and they`re more
personal. Quote, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was on the verge of
resigning this past summer amid mounting policy disputes and clashes with
the White House, according to senior officials. And in late July, while
home in Texas, Tillerson threatening not to even come back to Washington
and reportedly only coaxed back thanks to John Kelly who was then at DHS
and Defense Secretary Mattis and Vice President Pence.
NBC News pointing to a meeting that took place in the White House Situation
Room in July where the president, quote, suggested he might fire the top
U.S. commander of the war in Afghanistan and comparing the decision-making
process on troop levels to the renovation of, yes, a high-end New York
The next day, Rex Tillerson reportedly called the president, quote, a
It is rare for the secretary of state to ever speak with reporters but
today, Tillerson took for him an unusual step of responding personally to
this report in unscheduled remarks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Good morning. There were some
news reports this morning that I want to address. There`s never been a
consideration in my mind to leave. And I am here for as long as the
president feels I can be useful to achieving his objectives.
REPORTER: Could you address the main headline of this story that you
called the president a moron? And if not, where do you think these reports
TILLERSON: I`m not going to deal with petty stuff like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Joining me now is Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential
Always good to have you.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thank you.
MELBER: He didn`t deny it and how –
BESCHLOSS: No, he didn`t deny it.
MELBER: How unusual is this in history, sir?
BESCHLOSS: Well, you usually don`t hear this kind of language. You know,
our first secretary of state was Thomas Jefferson. He worked for George
Washington. There is no record that Thomas Jefferson ever called George
Washington a moron. Or that Washington said that Jefferson was wasting his
You know, sometimes historians like me will find out decades later that in
private, you know, there might have been friction between a president and a
secretary of state, but in real-time for a president like Donald Trump to
haze these people as you were describing, Ari, like Nikki Haley and some of
these others it`s disrespectful and totally out of keeping with American
MELBER: American tradition and it also goes to how others as you mentioned
will serve in the cabinet. You know, you`re a historian. I don`t know if
you ever listened to the Canadian rapper and artist Drake.
BESCHLOSS: A little bit. I know what you mean.
MELBER: He has a line where he says, you know, his ex would tear him apart
but she never wanted to split a thing with him.
MELBER: How much of this is an issue in governance where Donald Trump will
tear these people apart but they don`t feel that he`s sharing with them in
BESCHLOSS: Well, I think that`s the problem because, you know,
traditionally presidents do share the work. They have people who are
colleagues. Abraham Lincoln was famous for that. You know, he appointed
all of these essentially equals, defeated presidential candidates, to his
cabinet and they worked very closely together. That`s what you see.
But Donald Trump, the sense you get his whole M.O., going all the way back
to New York real estate, is keeping the people who work with him off
balance, disrespecting them, causing them not to feel that they`ll have
their job tomorrow. It`s not always the best way to motivate people.
MELBER: And then you have the visuals and the kind of – it`s inestimable
(ph), it`s hard to come up with the words with what happened in Puerto
BESCHLOSS: So right.
MELBER: So, I`m going to ask you to do it instead of me, and then, also
very seriously, the president in Las Vegas, this type of leadership, I
think, it`s fair to say, he struggles where other presidents in both
parties have seemed to know their role, give us your view of that.
BESCHLOSS: Well, you know, a big part of being president is consoling
people who are suffering. That goes back to Lyndon Johnson after the
hurricane, he consoled Americans after the death of John Kennedy. It`s
been a big part of the presidency ever since.
You see Donald Trump going to Puerto Rico, these people suffering in Puerto
Rico, their families, he`s throwing paper towel rolls at them as if this is
some funny games show, and that scene around the table when he`s asking
everyone to say how great his administration did in bringing relief to
Puerto Rico. It was disrespectful and it was something that we really
should not see a president be doing.
MELBER: Right, you use that word consoling. And I suppose the first
fundamental part of that is empathizing with people –
BESCHLOSS: Right, right.
MELBER: – as individuals and that was absent in a way.
BESCHLOSS: And there`s a reason for that because we want to know that the
president is going to emotionally react to things the same way that we do.
When people are suffering after a hurricane, it`ll move him to make an even
extra effort to make sure that they`re taken care of and that`s what we`re
not seeing here.
MELBER: NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss, always learn
something when talking to you. Thank you.
BESCHLOSS: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: Ahead, we have a big news story from inside Trump world. This is
from a team of reporters from three different news outlets working on this
story for weeks, one of them is here tonight. That`s ahead.
MELBER: So, last spring when President Ted Cruz was still a plausible
idea, back when he was winning in places like Wisconsin and North Dakota,
another of Donald Trump`s old business deals was back in the headlines, a
project called Trump Soho, which is not in Soho, but is a 46-story tower
that Trump Organization was struggling to fill.
In April 2016, “New York Times” reported that there was a settlement of
lawsuit over Trump Soho from buyers who alleged had been tricked into
purchasing those units with exaggerated claims about the sales. “The
Times” also reported that Trump Soho been the focus of federal
investigation on fraud and that was before buyers who sued then settled out
of court withdrawing their allegations.
Now, that story, you might not have heard about it, because he didn`t do
much politically during those busy primaries. Well, Donald Trump as well
into his first year as president, dogged by the Russian investigation, it
turns out the story of what happened next in that case actually has a lot
to tell us about how he responds to criminal investigations. The headline
today, how Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. avoided a criminal indictment.
First, the Trump organization sent in their top criminal lawyers but when
that didn`t end this investigation into the Trump kids, they sent in
Trump`s own longtime lawyer who also happened to be a major donor to the
prosecutor handling the case. He met with that prosecutor, D.A. Cyrus
Vance, in 2012, and few months later, in August 2012, the case was closed.
According to the report, quote, ultimately, Vance overruled his own
prosecutors who wanted to charge the Trump kids.
Now, that prosecutor, D.A. Vance, says the visit from the personal lawyer
for Trump had no impact and he followed his practice of giving back
campaign money from Trump`s lawyer before they met and no outside attorneys
influenced the investigation and rather that the probe didn`t produce
sufficient evidence to support prosecution. We can also tell you, a Trump
organization attorney says those accusations always lacked merit, noting
that after the related lawsuit settled, the accusers recanted any prior
accusations about crimes.
But even without a conviction this news story reports that Trumps, the
kids, discussing in writing in e-mail how to coordinate false information
they gave to buyers and then writing they were worried a journalist might
be on to them.
Maybe they were right – because joining us now is Andrea Bernstein, a
senior editor for politics and policy for WNYC, who worked with
“ProPublica” and “The New Yorker” magazine on this story.
You were unto them. Why does this matter now?
ANDREA BERNSTEIN, WNYC SENIOR EDITOR FOR POLICY AND POLITICS: Well, it
matters now because it`s an insight into the Trump family and how they deal
with criminal prosecutions, but more particularly in this case, I think it
really gives us a window into the business operation of the Trump family
and what the prosecutors found. I mean, one of the reasons that we gave
these e-mails a lot of credibility in which they discuss, oh, we can`t say
this number because we said a bigger number previously in terms of the
number of units sold at Trump Soho.
MELBER: A number that wasn`t true.
BERNSTEIN: A number that was – right. Very – not just an exaggeration,
but four times the actual number of units sold.
MELBER: A knowing false statement also known as a lie.
BERNSTEIN: Exactly. That`s what the prosecutors believed we came to find,
that this was intentional, that they were aware of it and that they knew
they shouldn`t get caught. There was one e-mail that was described to us
in which Don Jr. was to have said, don`t worry. No one will find out
because the only people who know about it are people on the e-mail or
people Trump organization.
But prosecutors did find out about it and went very seriously into this
investigation and were seriously considering impaneling a special grand
jury at the moment in which point Trump`s personal lawyer intervened. So,
it tells us about the president, but about his children and the business
model of the Trump Organization.
MELBER: Right. And that lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, provided a statement to
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, basically saying that the donations were completely
unrelated and that he views them as ethical.
MELBER: When you look at the kids, the Trump kids, putting incriminating
information in e-mail, something their father avoided. I mean, I covered
trials and depositions where he says he doesn`t use e-mail because it helps
you get caught.
What is your takeaway about what that says about the kids and any
implications for this Russia investigation?
BERNSTEIN: Well, I have written a lot of stories that are based on e-mails
and some prosecutors call emails evidence mail for the reason that it is a
communication that you believe to be private but can be easily found. We
have already seen with Don Jr., the meeting in 2016 with the Russians that
was found to be an e-mail which he ended up tweeting out that these kinds
of things are memorialized and I think it would be surprising to people –
I mean, one of the things surprising to us as we were reporting this is
people who read the e-mails said they were shocked by the lies, in
particular that Ivanka told.
And this is something that, you know, they felt that the public view of
Ivanka Trump was not borne out in what they read in these e-mails.
MELBER: Right. The line prosecutors wanted to go, sometimes we see that
and they`re overruled without any nefarious issue. Your reporting raises
these larger questions both about that, and also about how the Trumps deal
with this. Thank you very much, Andrea Bernstein, for joining me.
BERNSTEIN: Thank you.
MELBER: Appreciate it.
We have something else to tell you about. A quick piece of news about
Russia. Earlier tonight, I was able to interview Oregon Senator Jeff
Merkley on “THE BEAT”. He is a Democrat who has been looking at these
issues. And he says that it`s very likely that Russian hackers received
American help when targeting voters on Facebook.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: We turn to collusion. Well, the plot just
gets thicker. We now know, thanks to information released today, that very
carefully crafted targeting was done in Michigan and in Wisconsin.
MELBER: Are you saying that the circumstantial evidence suggests they
would have needed American expertise to do that?
MERKLEY: Yes. That is certainly the likely result.
MELBER: You are saying it looks like some Americans helped the Russians
and the bigger question is just whether they were affiliated with Donald
Trump or not?
MERKLEY: I`m saying it`s very likely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Very likely. An idea there that Americans helped according to
this senator and the only questions if they were linked to Trump.
I have more on “THE BEAT” tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern and more
importantly more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MELBER: Here is Guajataca Dam in Puerto Rico. When it was built in 1927,
Calvin Coolidge was president and although flagged as a high hazard
potential by the Army Corps of Engineers, wasn`t inspected since 2013 and
since Hurricane Maria cracked one of the dam`s walls, officials have been
watching and waiting for any total failure, a breach, because 70,000 people
Today, there was another reason to be concerned. The National Weather
Service sounding the alarm after days of heavy rain, warning the risk of
the dam failing continues to increase potentially causing life-threatening
flash flooding downstream. Now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is doing
whatever it takes to prevent a breach, removing debris, piling up concrete
barriers, dropping them in the hopes of keeping it from eroding any more
than it already has.
Now, the dams right here on this map, you`re going to see in northwest of
Puerto Rico, in northeast today, this happened. A sewer line break
overflowing into the Rio Grande de Loiza, raising fears the only water
available to residents there could be contaminated, which is to say nothing
of the interior of the island, which is hard to reach. FEMA saying they`re
currently developing a strategy to reach the center of the island where
recovery efforts have lagged because, quote, many of the roads remain
inaccessible, which means whole towns are left out when it comes to getting
the food and water and fuel we have been reporting on.
And the local mayors of those towns are on their own, trying to figure out
how to haul supplies from regional drop-off points to their towns. Now,
shortly after Trump wrapped up the visit to Puerto Rico, the official death
toll has doubled now from 16 to 34. No matter how great he claims the
recovery effort`s going, the numbers are stark.
Ninety-one percent of the island in darkness. No power. Eighty-eight
percent of cell phone sites down. Most hospitals technically open but only
offering critical services because they don`t have supplies or space or are
dealing with power outages.
And while the administration was flip flopping today on what sounded like a
promise to wipe out Puerto Rican debt, the FCC is approving a lump sum of
$70 million to at least get Puerto Rico`s telecom back up. The money goes
towards helping the U.S. Virgin Islands where 70 percent of cell towers are
And word of another looming crisis. “Bloomberg” reporting tonight Puerto
Rico burning through the cash on hand before the hurricane hit and so it
faces a government shutdown by the end of the October, by Halloween, unless
Congress gives up some more emergency money.
And Puerto Rico`s treasury secretary telling us, without the assistance of
Congress, Puerto Rico`s government won`t be able to operate next month and
hurricane recovery comes to screeching halt. In other words, as always,
but especially, watch this space.
That does it for us tonight. Rachel will be back tomorrow. Hope to see
you tomorrow on my show, “THE BEAT”, which is every night at 6:00 p.m.
And now it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Good evening, Lawrence.
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